Thursday, August 06, 2015

70 Years Since The World Unleashed The Worst Weapon Of Mass Destruction Ever

70 years ago on this day the world saw the first of two atomic bombs unleashed on a mostly civilian population in Hiroshima, Japan. A few days later we did it again to the city of Nagasaki, Japan. With those actions hundreds of thousands died or were maimed and the world changed forever. If you have a streak of the macabre you can look at your own city and see what it would look like if the Hiroshima bomb was dropped on it today. You can also see the original orders for the atomic bomb strikes. What struck me was that the military was thoughtful enough to schedule religious services for Catholics and Protestants to worship Jesus right before they flew off to incinerate women and children. I wonder if they sang "Jesus Loves The Little Children"?

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was an act of state-sponsored terrorism. That sounds harsh and not at all right to American ears. After all, we stopped the Nazis and then we stopped Imperial Japan, stomping the Japanese so badly that they still officially don't have a military (good news though, we will spend ourselves our of existence to defend Japan so they don't have to). Terrorism is what them Arabs and other people with funny names do, not what America does. Not so fast my friend. One of the prime definitions of the word "terrorism" is: Violence against civilians to achieve military or political objectives. That is exactly what happened and it doesn't make much difference to the civilians being killed if the plane was a commercial flight flown into a building in New York or a B-29 dropping a bomb on Hiroshima. Keep in mind that in both Germany and Japan, the U.S. used mass firebombing of cities to break the will of the people. The difference of course was that the U.S. and our frienemies the Soviets were already closing in on Berlin while we firebombed the Germans while an invasion of Japan proper was still in the works. Thanks to the fact that Hitler was nuts and the Red Army and the U.S. army were rampaging toward Berlin, German surrender was rendered moot. The Japanese however were more recalcitrant and harder to get to, even though the atomic bombing were preceded by months of firebombing of Japanese cities, including a raid on Tokyo that might have killed outright more people than the Hiroshima bombing, although firebombs don't have the radiation impact that the atomic bombs did, burning people alive in their homes.

Very subtle
Over the years as I have come to a place of non-resistance, I have found the excuses we use as a people to defend our use of weapons of mass destruction and terror to be increasingly hollow. I have run into all sorts of arguments, from new ones like nuking Japan saved them from being invaded and occupied by the Soviets (so see, we did them a favor. Sorry about incinerating those kids.) to old ones like the atomic bombing forced Japan's surrender and saved countless U.S. lives. I have even been told that the civilians had it coming because they were helping the war effort. Of course American citizens were doing the same thing on a massive scale but you can bet we wouldn't feel the same if Hitler had the bomb and used it on New York City. What made it more palatable then and probably secretly now was the very effective propaganda that dehumanized the Japanese people, just like Nazi Germany dehumanized Jews and ironically how pro-abortion forces dehumanize babies today. Watch some of the propaganda films from that era. Even Bugs Bunny got in on the act (watch the videos from that era and you will see what I mean). The Japanese were easy to dehumanize, even more so that the Germans, because they were foreign looking. The Germans looked like Americans but  the Japanese were an "other". They were called "Japs", "Nips", "little yellow devils" and all sorts of other charming names and the hatred for them was palpable up until recently. My maternal grandparents were Democrats but hated the Japanese people decades after the war. The vitriolic way they spoke about the Japanese seemed normal to me at the time but it is kind of shocking now that my sweet little Grannie had a hatred burning for an entire people decades after the war ended. It used to be a good way to get beat up where I lived if you drove a Jap car in the Rust Belt where American cars were built by American union autoworkers. If you Google search World War 2 propaganda posters you get pictures like the one above with the oh so subtle message that those dirty Japs were coming to rape white American women (search the "Tokio Kid" series for some particularly revolting pictures). In most of the propaganda posters the Japanese are portrayed as evil, leering subhumans with exaggerated slanted eyes and huge buckteeth, sometimes with fangs thrown in to reinforce the message. That message was clear, Japs aren't really humans. They are "The Enemy" and whatever we need to do to defeat "The Enemy" is OK, whether that means food and fuel rationing for the war effort or sticking those dirty Japs in internment camps or nuking women and children. This same tactic was used in Vietnam to excuse the war crimes perpetrated against the Vietnamese people. They were just "zipperheads" or "Gooks". Not people cuz the U.S. doesn't do that. We still see this today. So sorry kids got killed in that drone strike, they are "collateral damage" but we killed a high value target. USA! The U.S. has been acting like the drunkest guy in the party since World War II ended with the atomic bombings, stumbling around looking for a fight and generally making a mess of things, all the while killing lots of civilians while saving lots of other civilians. Ya want to make an omelette ya gotta break a few eggs. #amiright?

Militarily you can justify the atomic bombings. After all the goal was to force Japan to surrender and save American lives. Civilians always have and always will die in war in disproportionate numbers. I would not have wanted to be a civilian family in Germany that had a visit from Soviet troops or Americans because the stories are out there and they are ugly, often as ugly as the atrocities commited by the Japanese and Germans (I don't count the Italians because they were really useless in the war). Like I said, the goal was achieved. The Japanese surrendered, we won, the world was saved, USA! I am not minimizing the facts like the simple playground excuse of "They started it" and the reality of invading Japan leading to a lot of lives being lost among military and civilian alike. The Japanese were brutal in war, from the Bataan Death March to the practice of using teen-aged girls from occupied areas as "comfort women", a clever euphemism for sex slaves. Although less well documented than the Holocaust, Japanese war crimes are nausea inducing. Make no mistake, I am absolutely saying that the world as a whole is better off because we won and they lost although it is a lot more complicated. World War II didn't happen in a historical vacuum, just like the War on Terror isn't the result (entirely) of events since 9/11. I am personally glad that we got the bomb before the Nazis did (and also that Hitler was unhinged enough to invade the USSR, splitting his forces and changing history). That doesn't change the reality that the United States used terrorism as a weapon to subdue the Japanese people and we do history and humanity no favors by pretending that it was anything other than an atrocity, even if it was a "necessary" one. There are still many lessons to be learned today from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and I don't mean the lesson of "Don't mess with the U.S.".

The bitter irony of the United States being the only nation to use an atomic weapon in war while scolding others for seeking to gain access to the same is not lost on me and becomes more grating every year. I really don't want Iran to gain access to a nuclear weapon but I also am not super keen on Israeli already having them, or India or Pakistan or France or even the good ole U.S. of A. since we actually used them. After the Iraq invasion and occupation came up empty on WMDs, we could have sent the inspectors to America because we have them all over the central part of the country in innocuous looking concrete bunkers in Wyoming and Nebraska.

The Japanese people still remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We need to remember them as well, not as an opportunity to pat ourselves on our collective backs but as a bitter reminder of the cost of war that perhaps will dissuade us or at least give us pause before we get into the seemingly inevitable next war. We seem to look back with nostalgia on  the days of World War II and have been trying to recreate that heady feeling by getting into war after war ever since. Korea. Vietnam. Iraq. Afghanistan. Countless smaller wars and a decades long Cold War where only the threat of mutually assured destruction kept the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. from lobbing nukes at one another.

We like to pray for God to "bless our troops" and thank Him for our freedom but we must remember: The "freedom" you enjoy was purchased with the currency of dead women and children. That is an uncomfortable truth but a truth nevertheless.

The lesser of two evils is still evil. Remember Pearl Harbor but also remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Dresden and countless other places. Remember the mother in Dresden burned alive alongside her baby in a carriage. Remember the dead in Hiroshima and those maimed so horrifically that I couldn't bring myself to post a picture of them. If you are also a Christian remember the words of Christ...
"But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. (Luke 6:27-29)

4 comments:

Blake Jones said...

I wasn't gonna post on this, but then I read your next post and realized you just like attacking everything. As a cultic Mormon, let me give you another bible verse: 'judge not..' You shouldn't judge because you can't fully understand someone else's situation. You weren't alive then, so you can't fully appreciate where they were coming from. Have you ever been in a situation where you had to choose between the lives of boys in your community and strangers across the ocean? Are you so sure you'd be so altruistic if it was your son or nephew or neighbors life you were potentially trading? I'm not saying whether the decision was right or wrong, but to talk with such a self righteous tone from the safety of your home decades later is arrogant, self righteous and condescending to a people that don't deserve it.

Arthur Sido said...

"Have you ever been in a situation where you had to choose between the lives of boys in your community and strangers across the ocean?"

Blake, are the lives of boys in your community worth more than the lives of Japanese children? I don't think a child being a stranger because she lives in Japan makes her life less important than a young adult male in Indiana just because I happen to know them. Maybe Japanese lives don't matter as much because they look different from the young white men I know, presumably that gives me warrant to incinerate them or leave them mutilated. Perhaps you can try to think about this as the difference between combatants losing their life in battle (which is by no means assured since Japan was heading for surrender and the bomb was likely dropped more to send a message to Stalin than to Hirohito) versus elemnetary aged boys and girls being burned alive, turned to ashes, left with horrible deformities, having children born with birth defects, etc. As for me, Jesus (the real Jesus, not the created brother of Satan of mormonism) tells me to love my enemies. It is kinda hard to claim to love your enemies when you light their children on fire.

I didn't publish your other comments but you seem to miss the point. If your church, which I was once entrapped in, tells people one thing for decades and then admits that the process used to "translate" the "Book of Mormon" was completely different and THEY KNEW IT, doesn't that make you wonder what else they are lying about? I get why you don't want to think it through, being a mormon you are scared into compliance by warnings of apostates in "outer darkness". When you invest so much of your life into something, it is easier to keep the eyes closed then to ask the hard questions, questions which I will give you a hint lack any reasonable answer.

Anonymous said...

The Japanese attacked us first. We were out to win at any cost. If they cared so much about their own people why did they attack us? I was born in 1953 not long after the war ended just to give a perspective on my thinking. Was the unexpected carnage of Pearl Harbor less important? I have no problem with what we did then. We are in a different era with nuclear weapons. Today a nuclear blast means annihilation of our whole planet. We will eventually perish.

Arthur Sido said...

So anonymous, your argument boils down to the playgroudn excuse "He started it!". Do you really have "no problem" with the women and children who were burned alive or horribly maimed for life? Those children didn't start a war with America, they were just the victims. If you truly don't care at all about that you have a very hard heart indeed.